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'There are people within the Lions bubble not double-jabbed'

By Liam Heagney

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Lions managing director Ben Calveley has admitted following a damaging day for the tour in South Africa that there were people in their tour party who weren’t double-jabbed. Wednesday night’s match versus the Sharks eventually went ahead following a day of concern which resulted in one player and one member of staff testing positive for Covid and twelve people being identified as close contacts – eight players and four staff members.

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This resulted in Warren Gatland having to reshape his team as eight of the chosen matchday 23 became unavailable – starters Ali Price, Dan Biggar, Liam Williams and Anthony Watson along with replacements Tadhg Beirne, Conor Murray, Stuart Hogg and Chris Harris.  

Asked on Sky Sports at the stadium in Johannesburg about the immunisation status of the Lions party on the same day that Friday’s Springboks versus Georgia match was cancelled due to the virus, Calveley said: “Nearly all of the Lions tour party have been double-jabbed. There are people within the Lions bubble that haven’t been double-jabbed but the vast majority of people have been double-jabbed.  

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“We had one positive case in the camp this morning. That person had four close contacts so two of them were players, two of them were management. We immediately isolated everyone in the tour party and then both lateral flow and PCR tested everybody and those results came back negative apart from one single team positive. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have isolated that one individual and all of his close contacts, but we then consulted with our medical advisory group that contains all of the relevant medical experts and their advice is that the fixture can proceed… we see it as a positive. We are showing that we can overcome all of the challenges that face us and we are determined that we can put a tour on for the players, for the fans and for all of our friends here in South Africa.”

Asked about the general safety of the Lions squad, Lions boss Calveley continued: “We are in a secure, tightly controlled bubble environment but what is the case, and we have seen this in sport around the world, is that no bubble is entirely impenetrable. That is why we set up our medical advisory group so we can take advice from the experts on whether it is okay to proceed with matches like this and we are really pleased that they have said that it is okay. 

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“We just very calmly work through the challenges as they present themselves. We take things one step at a time. The focus today has been on making sure we can get this fixture over the line which we have. 

“We then turn our attention to the weekend and we know that the Bulls aren’t able to put a side out so we are working with the South African rugby union to see if we can find alternative opponents for Saturday or if we can’t, to see if we can rearrange that fixture for later in the tour. The approach is to stay calm, stay focused and take things one step at a time. 

“The Test series is absolutely paramount. Our intention is to do everything we can to make sure we can get those games over the line in South Africa. We play the match tonight, we then move on and deal with Saturday, we then move on to Cape Town on Sunday and at the moment there is no intention to deviate from that agreed schedule.”

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'There are people within the Lions bubble not double-jabbed'

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